Gordon Brown and the campaign trial

“I’ll be running away in that direction”

Who would have thought that a day-visit to Rochdale would end in misery? It’s unprecedented.

The Labour Party had already been struggling to keep a pace with the Tories and the Lib Dems. But after last week’s Leaders’ Debate and a very successful speech on the NHS on Monday, it looked as though Mr Brown and his gang were beginning to claw it back. Certainly, in the opinion polls yesterday morning, it seemed as though they had started to regain some ground.  

It all went wrong, though, when Gordon Brown was faced by life-long Labour voter and self-confessed ‘ordinary woman’, Gillian Duffy, whilst on the campaign trail in Rochdale.   

Brown, looking shifty and uncomfortable (in that way all politicians do when facing the electorate) shuffled through the Yorkshire crowd, glad-handing people and mumbling pleasantries – until Mrs Duffy appeared.

From the offing, it was clear this wasn’t going the normal bland preamble – Mrs Duffy was angry. Despite being a staunch Labour voter – or, perhaps, precisely for that reason – she wanted answers. As the Prime Minister (and a large quota of the associated press) rounded on her, Mrs Duffy’s discourse streamed hotly through a number of topics – including the tax on her pension, immigration and the national debt.   

By two minutes in, the Prime Minister was looking desolate; by three, his responses had become muted and withdrawn; by the fourth minute, he was clearly longing for some sort of exit strategy…

Finally, gasping for air and commending Mrs Duffy for her ‘strongly held beliefs’, Brown scrambled back to the safety of his ministerial car – and promptly made the single biggest blunder of his career.

It was the work of a moment, of course, but, by forgetting to turn his microphone off and instantly dubbing Mrs Duffy a ‘bigoted woman’, Brown had finally created a gaffe of gargantuan proportion.

Completely oblivious, Mr Brown was ushered off to Jeremy Vine’s radio studio where the tape of his remarks was played back to him. Listening to it, with his head in his hands, the Prime Minister replied by giving what I thought was a uniquely brave response: “Well”, he said thoughtfully, “if I did say those things, I’m very sorry”.  Sadly, there wasn’t really any if about it.

An exercise in damage limitation saw Mr Brown quickly whisked back to Rochdale to descend – presumably unwanted – upon the Duffy household and hang about for what must have been a uniquely painful 40 minutes of grovelling.

Emerging from the house, Brown – now with a fixed, awkward smile – explained to the awaiting press that the whole incident had been nothing but a mix up – he had simply misunderstood what Mrs Duffy had been saying.

It’s terribly sad that such a thing had to happen. Surely it would have been better if he’d just shrugged the whole thing off, wouldn’t it? People could have respected that – after all, as strange and unfounded as his words in the car were, at least they sounded genuine…

Midway through her heated dialogue with Brown, Mrs Duffy demanded to know: “All these Eastern Europeans coming in – where are they flocking from?”

I think it took great strength of character for Brown not to simply reply: “Well, Eastern Europe, obviously…”

It’s just a shame that that strength of character didn’t hold out.  

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~ by wordwrites on April 29, 2010.

2 Responses to “Gordon Brown and the campaign trial”

  1. The silly arse. If he’d only seen the naked gun and watched as Frank Drebbin urinated with his microphone on, watched AND LEARNED, this whole sorry mess could have been avoided.

  2. He should have been studying the entire Police Squad cannon from day one.

    He’ll be lying on top of the Queen at a baseball game next. In an unlikely scenerio.

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